MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it was ready to renew gas talks with Kiev, but only if it paid its debts, in a possible offer of dialogue after the two nations' leaders said they had discussed steps towards peace in eastern Ukraine.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, responding to a Ukrainian proposal to pay seasonal prices for Russian gas, said Moscow would resume supplies only if Kiev paid down its "astronomical debts" and named a gas price well over that previously cited by Kiev.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk proposed paying Moscow $385 (234 pounds) per 1,000 cubic meters during the winter, and $300 in the low, summer season.
This price was dismissed by Medvedev, who said Ukraine should pay an average gas price of over $385 per 1,000 cubic meters - above the average price of $340 cited by Yatseniuk.
"We are ready to discuss the resumption of cooperation with Ukraine in the gas sector," Medvedev said in a statement. But he added that Russia would do so only if Kiev repaid "existing debts, which have reached an astronomical figure."
His remarks came after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said they had discussed possible peace measures to end the fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russia cut off its exports to Ukraine in July in a dispute over pricing. Commenting on his country's energy woes, Yatseniuk said on Wednesday Ukraine needed to buy some 25 billion cubic metres of natural gas to meet its annual needs.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel and Gareth Jones in Kiev, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ralph Boulton)